Handling complaints

Complaint handling standards

Complaint handling is an important part of a safe and responsive health system.

All health service providers in Victoria must meet the minimum standards for complaint handling as laid out in Schedule 1 of the Health Complaints Act 2016. In summary, a health service must:

  • Promptly acknowledge complaints and make appropriate attempts to resolve them
  • Provide information on how to make a complaint to health service consumers in an accessible and understandable form
  • Inform those who have made a complaint of the complaint's progress and its outcome
  • Keep personal information collected in the course of a complaint in a confidential manner
  • Keep a record of all complaints, including any action taken in managing them.

Handling complaints well

If someone makes a complaint to us about your service, we will ask them, where it is appropriate, to try and resolve it with you first.

Health service providers with effective complaint-management processes often resolve complaints quickly and easily. Resolving complaints directly also creates opportunities for you to restore confidence in your services, improve quality through feedback and to prevent minor issues from escalating into major problems.

Handling complaints well means engaging with your consumers and carers about their concerns and understanding the resolutions they are seeking.

Why people complain

Communication issues underpin most complaints we receive, and most complainants are looking for an explanation and an apology to resolve their complaint. People often make complaints in the hope of preventing the same thing happening to others. This is why acknowledging complaints promptly and letting complainants know what's been done to prevent future problems is so important.

Tips for good complaint handling

  1. Your complaint process should be easy and straightforward.
  2. Complaints should be acknowledged promptly, and the complainant should be told how their complaint will be handled.
  3. Complaints should be triaged appropriately.
  4. Communication should be clear, using minimal jargon and technical terms. Make sure the complainant understands the information you are sharing.
  5. Treat your complainants fairly, and with objectivity and respect.
  6. Make sure your response to the complaint is clear and informative, and that it addresses the specific issues raised in the complaint.
  7. If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, you should provide information about any available internal or external review options.
  8. If the complaint highlights any systemic issues, these should be considered and acted on.

Anyone with concerns about a health service that is being provided can make a complaint. This includes health service consumers and their friends and family members, health service staff and volunteers, concerned community members and professional organisations. If no health service is actually being provided to anyone, there may be little we can do.

Carers can also make complaints about how they have been treated in their caring role.

It is against the law to threaten or dismiss, discipline, disadvantage or subject anyone to any detriment for making or intending to make a complaint.

Recommended text to publish on your health service website

If you are not satisfied with our service, please contact us. We take complaints seriously and aim to resolve them quickly and fairly.

If you remain dissatisfied with our response, you may contact the Health Complaints Commissioner (HCC). The HCC responds to complaints about health services and the handling of health information in Victoria. Their service is free, confidential and impartial. To lodge a complaint with the HCC:

Fill out a complaint form online at hcc.vic.gov.au or

Phone 1300 582 113 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday to discuss your complaint.

Posters and brochures

We know that having a complaint about your service can be distressing.

Research has shown higher rates of depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts for practitioners with complaints against them[1]. We aim to minimise this by dealing with complaints fairly and as quickly and informally as possible. But if you are experiencing any anxiety or distress about the process, support is available.

The officer handling your complaint is there to guide you through each step of the process and to address any concerns you may have. Their role is to remain independent and impartial at all times.

Support can also be sought through your medical indemnity provider, registration board, professional body or employer.

If you want some expert support from outside your profession, contact beyondblue online or by calling 1300 224 636 any time.

[1] T Bourne, et al - ‎2015 BMJ